Stress? No Thanks, Got Plenty.

Don’t you hate it when you’re stressed and someone tells you to relax? It’s guaranteed to elevate your stress level.

Stress can increase our risk of developing diabetes. If we’re already prediabetic, that’s not good news.

When we are in a stressful situation, our body releases hormones that stir up the fight-or-flight response[1].

The trigger might be someone cutting us off in traffic, or the death of a loved one, or even the unexpected shouts of greeting at a surprise birthday party.

It can also be a long-term stressful situation, such as a high-pressure job, an abusive relationship, or a chronic illness.

When we’re stressed, our body gets ready to fight or flee by releasing hormones that increase our blood sugar. This gives us the boost of energy we need to either punch it out or take to our heels and run. Plus, the liver gets involved by releasing sugar from where it’s stored. Just in case we need it.

Other, more complex changes occur, but the bottom line is, stress, particularly chronic stress, is bad for us. As prediabetics, it’s an additional strain and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes that we do not need.

There’s not a lot we can do to regulate our response to the unexpected. If somebody thinks it’s hilarious to lurk around the corner and jump out yelling “boo,” our heart’s going to jump a bit and those hormones will kick in. Our physical response won’t last long, but it’s irritating.

For chronic or ongoing situational stress, try any of these stress reducers. Find what works for you.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction[2] (MBSR) teaches us how to be in the moment—feel every breath and step, take in every scent and sound. When combined with traditional diabetes prevention programs, practicing MBSR can reduce[3] “perceived stress, BMI, calorie, carbohydrate and fat intake,” and they have the science[4] to support their claims.

Other things we can try that require no special training and are universally accepted as stress reducers include:

Get physical. Any activity will help. Swimming, vacuuming under and behind furniture, walking the dog, cat, or iguana, pulling weeds—they all count. Whatever activity you enjoy, that’s what you should do.

Get a new hobby or finally devote time to an old, beloved hobby. It should grab your focus and engage you mentally, providing escape from the stress source.

Talk it out with a counselor. A trained professional will help you clarify your needs and options. It’s hard to set boundaries and stand up for ourselves. Counselors help us find ways to do this that fit within our individual abilities.

Take care of your body by getting more sleep, eating healthier foods, and cutting out harmful habits like smoking or abusing drugs or alcohol. It’s tough to battle stress or anything else if we’re not physically ready to do so.

Participate in volunteer activities in the community. Getting out of our own heads and doing for others benefits them and us. We do some good and feel better about ourselves. Win-win.

Stress sounds like nothing, but it’s significantly harmful. If there is someone or something in your life causing long-term stress, don’t just carry on. Do something about it!

You’re worth it.

[1] Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Stress and hormones, (January 30, 2020).

[2] UMASS Medical School, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, (January 31, 2020).

[3] Hindawi, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, A Mixed-Methods, Randomized Clinical Trial to Examine Feasibility of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Management and Diabetes Risk Reduction Intervention for African Americans with Prediabetes, (January 31, 2020).

[4] UMASS Medical School, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, History of MBSR, (January 31, 2020).